Explorer of the concealed layers of life
Manoj Das as a novelist
Novels of Manoj Das: Unparalleled and absorbing works of fiction with the epoch-making transitions – both physical and psychological - that swept India in the recent past as their backdrop.
Cyclones and A Tiger at Twilight are more widely circulated among the three full-length novels of Manoj Das. (Lately the Penguin Books have brought out both the novels in a single volume.) These two were written originally in English while the third novel by him translated from Odia, The Escapist, is unfortunately not easily available in the market though there have taken place national seminars on this work. This novel was published in a scheme called ‘Indian Novels in English’ sponsored by a Trust and published by Macmillan India. But because of some misunderstanding between the Trust and the publishers, all the novels under this series were taken over by the National Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore. They were expected to bring out a new edition of the novel, but they have not yet done so.
Three distinguished professors cum critics of India, Prof. K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar, Prof. Shiv K. Kumar and Prof. P.S. Sundaram have highly rated this novel. In the backdrop of three simultaneous transitions in India in the mid-twentieth century – passing of the colonial rule and dawn of freedom, abolition of the feudal system, new enterprises bringing about sweeping changes in rural India – the novel projects convincing characters caught up in the turmoil. But the central theme is the evolution of an individual, the hero, through events both disenchanting and dramatic.
A Tiger at Twilight is a unique creation at once unmistakably realistic and surrealistic. Set against a sylvan canvas dominated by hills, it shows how a fairytale atmosphere can take over the world of people that are so intimately familiar to us. Silence of the primal forests and the lonely life of a Youngman, the invisible presence of a tiger and the too visible presence of its counterpart – an enigmatic lady and their final confrontation, the appearance of a Raja who seems to be a fading echo of an awful past – amidst them all the life of a doll-like damsel – the novel remains a haunting memory and the readers gradually wakes up to the undertone of the allegory that runs across it. From a vague haunting memory it then becomes a significant recollection.
The Escapist is an absorbing narrative highlighting the occult strain that runs along our life, restrained and subdued. In a charming and smooth flow of events what it brings forth is the truth that chance is the pseudonym of God which He uses when he does not wish to put down His signature. Events beautiful and horrible – all can contribute to one’s inner growth when the soul is aspiring for it – an aspiration of which the surface mind may remain even unaware.
Each one of these three novels presents an aspect of life and the world in a refreshingly new light. The subtle message or messages they convey gets integrated with the reader’s consciousness in a spontaneous way.
Picks from the gems of novels